WASHINGTON, November 13, 2013 — Today’s small businesses face a mounting series of strategic question they need to answer. How should they go mobile? How is their social media work performing? What aspects of the company can be safely outsourced to online vendors?
From more location-based services to the end of traditional POS systems (in favor of tablets and phones), the world is changing fast for small companies and new businesses.
But amidst all the trends, new possibilities emerge. It is easier than ever before for companies to choose a “born global” strategy and reach out to international customers after just a year or two of operation – or, with sufficient ambition, right from the start.
The benefits of reaching a global audience at low costs are obvious to any entrepreneur. A large consumer base to draw from, new markets with higher levels of demand, and potential global contacts to help with future growth are only a few examples.
But businesses need to create global connections before leveraging them. Creating an ecommerce space is a given these days. Here are a few additional tech trends that may help smaller ventures become international businesses in the coming year:
1. Government Aid
Some small businesses may have missed it, but 2013 was a big year for new U.S. ventures hoping to go global ASAP. The Small Business Administration launched a new program titled “US Global Business Solutions,” designed to give smaller companies a helping hand in launching international projects. While the program is still in its early stages, it aims to drastically increase the number of exporting businesses in the United States by 2017.
For now, the approach is three-pronged. The SBA wants to create simpler trade financing and encourage easier international marketing options for businesses actively trading goods. The agency also wants to increase lender training and financial institution options for international expansions. Finally, they are also attempting to streamline access to expertise and businesses services for ventures that do not have current international plans but are interested in future globalization efforts.
2. Easier and More Intelligent Co-creation
Co-creation and collaboration allow companies around the world to work together in developing materials, content and documents. How does this help small businesses? As co-creating grows more popular and envelopes larger, more vocal communities, smaller companies gain access to large pools of international expertise. This will make cultural translations (language and otherwise) far easier for companies. Viral marketing and honest international conversation also grow more attainable.
3. Even More Cloud Storage
Cloud storage is a common solution these days, but it is growing increasingly affordable and advisable for even the smallest companies. The trend has also had time to move across the globe, where it has found a home in businesses across Europe and many emerging markets.
When data is moved to the cloud, it becomes much easier to access from an international perspective. This in turn encourages international partnerships and collaboration. When both sides can access data at will no matter the time zone, forging client relationships or joint ventures becomes eminently possible. This is particularly notable for service providers, who can increase their client options through greater cloud storage adoption.
4. Advanced Communication Options
Thanks to the ubiquitous web conference services available these days, companies can link with clients halfway around the world to answer questions, introduce products, and brainstorm with a little face-to-face (or at least real-time) interaction. As cameras, bandwidth, and streaming technologies continue to improve on a global level, web conferencing will become even more common.
Companies like PGi and GlobalMeet are working to develop communication options specifically for the global market. If businesses want to include more traditional options, then options abound for international phone numbers as well.
5. Broader Social Media Impact
Something interesting is happening with social networks – ramped-up convergence. Global social networks have grown to replace smaller, localized versions.
One of the leaders of this trend is Facebook, thanks to its new focus on India and Brazil. However, Russia still likes Vkontakte, Twitter is showing high rates of growth, and Chinese options like Sina Weibo continue to dominate if more strictly controlled markets.
Yet the end result is a still a positive one. By tapping into the right networks, companies can access more consumers than ever before. However, content should be multi-cultural, with clear impact on all viewers. In other words, businesses need to know how to interact with all people across whatever network they choose. Knowledge about network limitations also remains important.
6. Better Data Collection – Anywhere
Traditionally, companies have relied on business reports, government data, and industry news releases to get an idea as to how consumers are behaving. Actually, “relying” is a strong word: One of the long-term debacles in the international business world has been the uneven reliability of data, which is often pushed, inflated and falsified by even the highest authorities in order to influence response. Technology is acting as both solution and disruptor in this area.
But these days, small businesses are increasingly able to go directly to the data source and skip the middleman altogether.
Online, data collected from blogs, websites, and social media analytics can show where web traffic comes from how it behaves, and what actions lead to sales – key information for companies wanting to grow their presence in specific markets. Mobile data has also risen, becoming a great indication of not only how consumers act, but where they are when they act and how they act on the go.
As the Internet of Things continues to develop, businesses will be able to access a growing number of sensors in cars, cards, phones and other devices to increase their Big Data collection. The result is will be a community of data-hoarders who will be able to develop their own foreign analytics based on real data collected by the group, not untrustworthy, top-down reports.
7. Growing Acceptance of Online Shops
This is a “sit back and wait” benefit for companies that do not have the resources to push into international markets right now. Online shops have begun to demonstrate not only increased innovation, but also greater appeal in foreign markets. Foreign clients are growing more willing and able to use SaaS services, and as major online communities extend their reach, eBay and Etsy stores have a better chance of attracting international buyers, too.
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